If any one person can be credited for the dominant cultural makeup of Central Minnesota, the honor would go to Father Francis Xavier Pierz, an Austrian Catholic priest who came to the Minnesota Territory in 1852.
He started missions and parishes throughout Central Minnesota, including in Belle Prairie, Swan River, Sobieski, Sauk Rapids, St. Cloud, St. Joseph and St. Augusta and encouraged German Catholics to immigrate to the area now referred to as Minnesota’s Holy Land. Father Pierz eventually settled in Rich Prairie and served as the resident pastor for the town’s congregation. The town was renamed Pierz in his honor.
Tim Hoheisel, a native of Buckman, executive director of the Sioux Falls Arts Council and doctoral candidate in American History at Kansas State University, will be the guest speaker at the Morrison County Historical Society’s (MCHS) annual dinner Sunday, Sept. 23. During the program, he will examine the impact of Father Pierz on the settlement of Central Minnesota, the immigration of German Catholics to the area and the state, national and international significance of the Central Minnesota German Catholic culture region.
The research is the focus of his doctoral dissertation, which is entitled, “The Minnesota Holy Land: The Intersection Ethnicity, Religion, and Agriculture in the German Catholic Culture Region of Central Minnesota, 1852-1889.”
In addition to the presentation on Father Pierz, the Morrison County Historical Society will also be showcasing its project and fundraising efforts to preserve the information in its collection of Pierz Journal newspapers. The project, called “Save the Pierz Journals,” involves having the collection digitized by the Minnesota Digital Library and posted online at Minnesota Reflections. (http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm)
To date, newspapers from 1909 through 1913 have been digitized and are available online, but there are many years left to go.
The Sept. 23 MCHS annual dinner will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Brickyard Bar and Banquet Hall in Pierz. The cost to attend is $20 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (320) 632-4007 before Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Local residents who need a ride to attend should call the Historical Society to make arrangements for transportation.